“We” are going to law school

Each fall new families move into our university ward, and inevitably the husband stands up, introduces his wife, and then says that “we are here for law school” (or for some other medical, business, or graduate program).

In the past, this mode of introduction has bothered me. Since typically only the husband is actually attending school, the statement would strike me as a distortion of the truth that prioritized the husband’s purpose for being in the area while minimizing the wife’s pursuits and goals. That women’s stories become subservient to their husbands’ still makes me uneasy, but recently I have come to value the sentiments that can underlie this statement.

Most of my life, I accepted the ideology that through hard-work I could shape my own life course and attain personal success in my chosen pursuits. However, a year ago I was placed in the position of the “trailing” spouse who had to move for her husband’s career. This experience was initially terrifying to me: I was placed in a new environment without friends, without a job, and without, it seemed, in clear sense of purpose or direction. My life narrative was shattered. I didn’t feel that “we” were here for anything; I felt that my husband was moving for a job and that everything I had aspired to was suddenly gone.

However, as I began to adjust to our marriage and to our move, I began to realize that marriage and adult life requires us not to think in terms of merit and self-achievement, but instead to ask what we can contribute to a larger organizational whole, sometimes at the expense of our interests. As my attitude shifted, I was surprised to discover a host of new occupations and ideas that personally fulfilled me, and I was delighted to realize that every day I was making contributions to our family and even to my husband’s pursuits that, if not widely acknowledged, were substantial. A successful marriage and career, I learned, cannot be based on the ideas that spouses had discrete realms of responsibility  that the other does not assist in; instead, success depended on helping each other and seeing all aspects of our marriage as a team effort.

A year later, as I look at the other displaced wives who are following their husbands to school, I am certain that although they might not be in class, that in a very real way they will be “here for law school.” I’m not saying it is ideal that we live in a world where we have to make choices to give up some aspirations for family life, but I have come to like the phrase “we are here for law school,” because it gives credit to spouses for work that often remains hidden and unacknowledged. It reaffirms the spirit of teamwork in a marriage that some (including me occasionally) would have us overlook by seeing the situation only through the lens of a wife who sacrificed herself for her husband.

Comments

  1. The Other Bro Jones says:

    Interesting post. Thanks
    My mission president would often introduce himself and his wife and say, “We are the president of the mission” It sounded a little odd, but gave her credit for being a part of the calling.

  2. I know I could not have been successful in law school without the support (financial, mental, emotional, spiritual–you name it) of my wife, so I am glad that reality is acknowledged by those who say “we” in that context. I know some couples who did not make it through that time, and it seemed to me that those couples failed, as all couples do, partly because they were insufficiently “we” and too much “I”. There is power in “we”.

  3. StillConfused says:

    When I was married, we were both career professionals. So relocating took some mutual effort. When I decided to leave air traffic control for law school, that meant that he had to get reassigned to Salt Lake Center. It all worked out because the transfer came in Feb and I started law school in August. I do remember some of the law school wives. They seemed more nervous than their husbands about the whole situation. They were concerned about their loss of social circles. I think now that the internet is so wide spread, it wouldn’t be as bad… it is easier to keep in touch with friends and family.

  4. I can’t stand that type of introduction. Who will have the intellectual challenge of practicing law with “your” degree. Who will have “your” earning capacity? Who will get to keep “your” law degree in the divorce? Sure, you might get an award based on his future earning capacity (thanks to feminists), but that’s a far cry from being a lawyer yourself. He’s here for law school, and you’re here for him to be in law school. It’s tempting to gloss over the difference because it makes clear one’s “trailing” status, but I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by not recognizing that one partner’s career goals have been allowed to take precedence and determine the couple’s location. Let’s call a spade a spade.

    If you want to say you’re being a supportive partner to your law-student husband, what’s wrong with just saying that?

  5. I suppose this is similar to the “we are pregnant” statement. That used to bother me, but after having read your post, I agreee that in most cases, the husband contributes by way of support, encouragement, and putting up with hormone changes.

  6. A word I keep coming back to is — balance.

    Balance self and others
    Balance achievement and non-achievement
    Balance teamwork and non-teamwork

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    Of course, the very idea of balance subsumes the notion of value. But that is another entire discussion…

  7. I guess it doesn’t bother me when people use “we” for careers or pregnancies, etc. My wife has played a very integral part in my career, and it’s because of her sacrifices that we moved where we did, I went to grad school, etc.

    In a successful marriage, “I” is supposed to be subjugated to “we”, in my opinion. Not completely eliminated, but subjugated.

  8. Natalie B. says:

    #4 – I agree with a lot of those sentiments. I should make clear that this post is an attempt to express the positive aspects that the statement can embody and how I have come to value those aspects; I don’t mean to minimize the other problems that accompany this phrase.

  9. Of course she’s here for his law school. Otherwise, she’d still be there.

    I don’t think the internet is that much a help. Relocation is still relocation.

    Back in 1993, we were there for med school. I couldn’t find work in my field, so I became a legal secretary.

    However, I did tend to be snooty about the “dental wives.” The guys in the dental program always seemed to marry girls who were five years younger, and had no college or had dropped out after one year. They seemed silly and materialistic. They always complained about being away from their mommies and their home state.

    Hope I’d be more accepting of differences now.

  10. Natalie, I think it’s kind of funny, but very, very reassuring, that you have been able to interpret in 21st century terms the positive aspect of what wives have almost always done when their husbands’ jobs/education required relocation. The family is an economic, social, political, educational, and just about every other -ial, corporate unit, and the input and support from the homefront is all that makes success mean more than merely another promotion. For quite a few years, acknowledging that fact has been uncool. z is still stuck in the ideological ’80s and ’90s, evidently, but your realistic and positive recognition of what these wives are doing is, well, hopeful.

  11. There’s no way my husband would have gotten his PhD without me. No way. It seems like the least I should get is a “we” mention.

    That said, I prefer “We are here for law school” to “We are going to law school.”

  12. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I would like to think that the wives had some input as to their husbands choice of law schools….unless he only got accepted to the one that she didn’t want to go to. With our last move, I always state both our reasons for choosing to move…the job for me, the horse property for my wife. But in reality, I’m glad she has the opportunity to enjoy her horse hobby and share it with me and our kids. She is also glad that I have a job that gives me more free time with the family and leaves me in a better mood. I would think that more complete law school introductions would be, ” we are here for law school AND to enjoy together the great opportunities this area has to offer.”

  13. Natalie B. says:

    11- Good point. I used one expression in the title and one in the post. I’ve heard both, and I agree that “here” is best.

  14. I am not stuck in the 80s and 90s, Ardis, and I think it’s a rude accusation on your part.

  15. Stephanie says:

    I agree, Natalie. Good post.

  16. One of the things that bothers me the most about it is that it conflates being married to a law student, with actually being a female, married law student, who is expected to get through school and also take on the often-gender-disproportionate burdens of being a wife to a law student at the same time.

    I don’t think women with advanced degrees of their own, or women who are comfortable with their choice to be a trailing spouse, usually feel the need to claim that they are “in law school” when they’re really just married to someone who is. I think it reveals a certain insecurity or lack of individual identity, and it always makes me want to pretend to believe they are really in law school, just to watch them backpedal. Of course I don’t do that, but hey, that’s what you get for making misleading statements.

  17. Stephanie says:

    Actually, z, I have an MBA and still preferred “We are in graduate school” when my husband was doing his PhD because it acknowledged me and my effort. As someone pointed out above, because of my contributions in holding down the homefront, he was able to accomplish our family goal of him completing his graduate degree in a timely manner and with much success – while having three kids and a happy marriage and church service, etc. Why is that not a worthwhile acknowledgement? It’s not all about the degree or earning potential.

    I think my problem with your comments is that they seem to be condescending of the wives who are opting to put his education at the forefront of the family at that time.

  18. I was going to bring up the “we are pregnant” idea, but others already have. I just want to reiterate what they have said. I have no problem with my using (or Mary’s using) “we” to refer to both of us. I prefer to not think of our marriage as a two separate persons; I prefer to think of it as two persons combined. I think this usage helps accomplish that.

  19. Because you’re not in it. You’re not enrolled. The degree will be in his name, and his to keep. Just like you’re not in the Elder’s Quorum or Bishopric or the men’s curling team or whatever else. I’m firmly in favor of acknowledging your contribution, but a registered PhD candidate you just ain’t. Why can’t you just say that you’re supporting him in his academic goals and managing the home? Why do you need to purport to be in graduate school?

    I think it’s sad that the assumption that the wife wouldn’t be enrolled is so pervasive.

  20. Stephanie says:

    I’m firmly in favor of acknowledging your contribution, but a registered PhD candidate you just ain’t. Why can’t you just say that you’re supporting him in his academic goals and managing the home? Why do you need to purport to be in graduate school?

    This is exactly what I mean by condescending. I don’t need to purport to be in graduate school myself, but him being in graduate school is a family achievement. By saying, “He’s in graduate school and I’m [merely, only, whatever adjective you choose to imply] supporting him”, it automatically reduces my role and its importance. I would rather have my husband say, “We are here for graduate school” than “I am here for graduate school” and me say, “I’m here to support him”. It’s implied in the first statement. I don’t need to spell it out for everyone and emphasize it. I feel that the first statement puts us more on equal ground.

    And I realized that I just emphasized the use of the word “we”. I wouldn’t want to say, “We are in graduate school” (like the title of the post says, so I agree with you about that) but “We are here for graduate school”. And it could be either spouse, but that’s what brings you to the area.

    When we moved out of state for my internship, I didn’t feel the need to point out to everyone that it was my internship. We just introduced ourselves by saying that we were there for internships (and a few weeks later my husband found one, too).

    But, to each his/her own.

  21. Stephanie says:

    Oops – should have said I emphasized the use of the word “here”

  22. z, why can’t these women use any formulation that pleases them? It’s quite rude of you to dictate otherwise and insist that their choices are wrong.

    And I hope the doctors are successful in dislodging whatever it was you sat on.

  23. There’s a great Peg McEntee column today here about the highly respected Mary Kaye Huntsman who is moving to China because her husband has just been confirmed ambassador to China. “Her job, she says, will be to tend to the well-being and morale of all the other embassy families.” She isn’t the one who went through the Senate confirmation drill, but does anybody think he would have won the appointent if she hadn’t been up to her job?

  24. Well, I don’t really mind saying that you’re ‘here’ for school, although I still do find it a little misleading because I still think it implies that you’re a student. When someone says they are “here for law school” I don’t think, for example, that they are here as an architect to oversee construction of a new library. I think they are here to be a law student. I guess I’m just not used to the assumptions that one would have to make about wives in order to not find that misleading. I just don’t understand why there isn’t some other way to explain what you are doing, that isn’t misleading.

    Glossing over the distinction just comes across as a little pathetic to me, and I don’t think it benefits anyone, in addition to minimizing married women who do attend graduate school. I realize you don’t have to justify your reason for relocating to anyone who shows a passing interest, but I don’t think it benefits women to take the attitude that being married to someone with a professional degree is in any way equivalent to attending a school or having a degree in one’s own name. Thinking of men’s credentials as our own is unhealthy and financially unwise.

  25. Stephanie says:

    Also, z, I actually was a PhD candidate (for less than a week). We had a few days of passing the baby while he went to school during the day, and I went at night before deciding that this wasn’t the life we wanted for the next 5-7 years. I decided it was his turn to up his earning potential. Should I have spelled that out for everyone in introductions so that they all would know how “important” and “smart” I am, too? Or do I just feel the need to tell you because I am a little stunned at the remark, “A registered PhD candidate you ain’t” – as if I have some reason to be ashamed for merely being supportive?

  26. Because what we say and how we describe our lives matters, Ardis. What we say drives our culture and the norms and expectations it creates, and it matters a great deal. We’re not islands. At least I’m making arguments, not just snide remarks.

    And because it’s disappointing, really, to meet an interesting woman and mistakenly think she’ll be your classmate and colleague, only to find out that she’s “in” law school the same way men are “in” Relief Society, which is to say, not.

  27. I remember reading in the Price of Motherhood where the author is interviewing a professor about PhD programs, gaining tenure, the rigorous schedule and all that, and the Professor says “It’s easier if you have a wife.”
    I think that sums up the whole discomfort I have with this whole thing. Because it certainly is easier if you have a wife, or support system at home. Those wives do valuable work and certainly make life better for their families in many ways. But in order to do that they, all too often, make themselves, their security, and their aspirations secondary. It is frequently a worthwhile sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice.
    I see the ‘we’ formulation as glossing over that sacrifice. I see separating it out ( “I’m here for law school, and my wife is here supporting me.”) as more respectful of the sacrifice that trailing spouses make because it is an explicit recognition that the trailing spouse is making a sacrifice to support the goals of the other spouse.

  28. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, Stephanie. You’re just not in grad school. It’s probably a great idea to not go. Certainly the world has enough lawyers and academics already, and the job market is abysmal in most fields. I’m a big fan of supportive spouses. I just don’t like it when people say they’re “in” a school that they’re not in. I don’t see why people can’t just say what they really do, instead of trying to imply that they’re in school too.

  29. I think a lot of this is about prestige: the prestige of certain, or even most, degrees, and the relative lack of prestige of motherhood. And also perceived intelligence and worth in society. I think it’s very unfortunate that motherhood is so egregiously undervalued, I just don’t think the solution is trying to spread the man’s prestige around. It reeks of the ’50s. What becomes of women who aren’t married to men with advanced degrees? Their motherhood is still undervalued.

  30. Left Field says:

    As others have pointed out, I think there’s a world of difference between “we are going to law school” as in the title and “we are here for law school” as used throughout the post. The former implies that both are registered in school, while the latter only states (apparently correctly) that law school is the reason for them both being here.

    However, I would think that “we are going to law school” would be a very unlikely locution in that circumstance. Does anyone really have experience with people saying that? Natalie did not say she had heard that expression although she used it in the title.

    While I can see why people might have issues even with “we are here for law school,” it doesn’t seem all that problematic to me. If I go with my wife when she buys a dress, we’re there to buy a dress even though she does the buying and wearing. Why are we there? To buy a dress. Seems pretty straightforward to me.

  31. Coffinberry says:

    Hm. This has me thinking of the flip side of the coin… not moving, and therefore attending a “lesser” tier law school than one might otherwise have qualified for.

    It also has me thinking very strongly of the loneliness felt by the female law students, who don’t have the EQ support, and husbands don’t have the “other spouses” support.

    Oh, yeah. That’s because it’s a been-there-done-that for me. I’m still the weirdo with the degree in my ward.

  32. Wow much ado about a little phrase. I think it’s unhelpful to think of the phrase as a separate issue. The woman who says “we are here for law school” probably says “we” in lots of different situations. I know I do. I say “we” for pretty much everything involving my husband and I. It becomes a habit. I think of ourselves as unit, so that whatever we do we do together. “We” went to law school and “we” will get pregnant.

    Given LDS doctrine, or the least the way I interpret LDS doctrine, the more “we” you become the more like our Heavenly Parents you become.

  33. When my wife and I moved for graduate school, I too did the “we are here for” thing, because I felt like my wife should be acknowledged as a part of what we were doing, and for the very real ways that the move would affect her socially, economically, and emotionally. I still stand by that. I think it would have been extremely disrespectful for me to say “I am here for school” while my wife looks around and wonders what she’s supposed to say in response…perhaps something like: “And I’m here because my job was deemed to be less important than my husband’s schooling”

  34. z, when “we” relocated for medical school and residency, “we” always spoke the way Natalie describes. We still talk about when “we” were doing this or that, even though I have the medical degree and my husband was supporting our family and taking care of our children. I don’t think anyone but you would conclude that my husband was trying to appropriate prestige from my degrees. We have done everything as partners. This is what Ardis is trying to explain to you.

  35. And z, if you don’t want anyone commenting that you seem stuck in the 80′s, maybe you shouldn’t claim that the rest of us are stuck in the 50′s.

  36. I wasn’t accusing a particular person, E, especially not you. Although I won’t be seeking your husband if I’m taken ill, will I?

    I’m glad you could make sense of Ardis’ remarks, because I couldn’t.

  37. Tom, maybe she could say the real reason she’s there: to support your pursuit of education. Why not?

  38. 31 – Come to think of it, I don’t think I have heard a wife in school refer to her husband with the expression “we are here for my X.” I guess husbands aren’t expected to be without career plans.

    While I agree that wives don’t get the same kind of concern expressed for their degrees as do their husbands, I’ll be going back to school this fall, and I have to say that I think it is a major blessing to have a working spouse to support me through school.

  39. Happily married people tend to focus more on the we then on the I. Its just how marriage works.

  40. *Sigh* I miss those days when new people moved into our closely-knit university ward in Ann Arbor, Michigan, every year, regardless how they introduced themselves. “We” miss those days! ;)

  41. Stephanie says:

    I need to backtrack a bit. (I’m cantankerous tonight because I am due today and still no baby . . . ) Anyways, I don’t think this is about a wife trying to piggyback on her husband’s certifications or the prestige associated with them. I think it is about a husband acknowleding his wife’s contributions to the family and to his success (or vice versa if the wife is in school).

    So, I think that “We are here for law school” is a step up from what Tom pointed out in comment 33. Or, “I am here for law school, and my wife/husband is lovingly supporting me here during this time”. Or whatever acknowledges her/his contribution is fine with me.

    It seems to me that that was the point of the post – Natalie recognized that a lot of the time husbands say this to give credit to their wives – NOT to put them into a less important light.

  42. I think folks should be allowed to answer however they want to answer, but the question should always be, “What brings you to town?” never “What is your husband studying?”

    I’ve had several women comment that they very much appreciated the former, and had been worried about the latter.

    A while back we had a dual-doctor couple move in, and they did say “We’re here for our residencies” and meant it.

    I never did the “we” thing, because I have my own graduate school degree, and I was the only one who earned that. But some people are comfortable with the “we” terminology, and it’s up to them.

  43. Wow, your move caused you to be terrified, lose your sense of purpose and direction, and shattered your life narrative? I honestly didn’t realize something like that could be so traumatic. Hope you make it through all right Natalie.

  44. Thomas Parkin says:

    “I think a lot of this is about prestige: the prestige of certain, or even most, degrees, and the relative lack of prestige of motherhood.”

    Well, I, for one, don’t give a rats tail end about degrees, career achievement, etc. I never have. Prestige of this kind can kiss my … If you feel called to follow all that, and are lucky enough to find yourself in work that is personally rewarding, then good on you. I can be genuinely happy for you. Besides, both society and God and the church need lawyers and doctors and Indian chiefs. Many men (and women), however, follow that course and find their lives vacant.

    My wife has a real talent – though she is not apt to acknowledge it – in writing. She works hard and long to get better at it, though she has no real aspirations of the professional kind. It contributes to the happiness she finds in life. But, of course, becoming a good writer is not the same as becoming a good person, as many very good writers are bloody awful people. Same goes triple for lawyers.

    Two paths diverged in the woods and I, I took the road less traveled by, and that has been a disaster. But a wonderful disaster. One of my only regrets is that there hasn’t been a little more “we” along the way. I’ve got a PhD in Marbles, and some other advanced degrees in the School of Hard Knocks. I wouldn’t trade my education for anything. ~

  45. Once when I was wearing my law school t-shirt, someone asked me what year my husband was in. They were surprised when I told them I was the one in law school, and I was single. Law school was hard enough that I wouldn’t begrudge anyone who wants to say “we”. Perhaps there is a bit of insecurity in it, but you don’t cure insecurity by telling a wife she’s just an important tagalong. Mostly I think people say “we” because marriage is teamwork.

    Now I’m a military wife, and I say “we” are in the military, even though he was the only one who deployed to Afghanistan. When one spouse has a demanding profession like the military, or law, or medicine, it truly is a team effort.

  46. This whole discussion is bizarre to me. For one, it’s crazy that anyone cares about prestige in the first place, both the “giver” or the “receiver”. If someone moves into your ward do you really care whether they are here for their PHD or a lawyer a pawn broker? And if you are that new person in the ward do you really get satisfaction from telling people you’re there to get your PHD (as opposed to just being there as a welder)?

    It’s also bizarre to me because it appears that there could actually be someone in my Sunday School class thinking, “I can’t believe she just claimed she’s getting her PHD when he’s the one going to school.” Really? I get exhausted just thinking about the energy it must take to care about something like this enough to have an opinion about the way two married adults phrase why they moved into your ward.

  47. Well, well Rusty. I, for one, like to keep my eye on the pawn broker count in my ward. But hey–that’s just me. Other than that monumental difference between us, I had many of the same thoughts as you while I read this post.

  48. One question–if the husband doesn’t pass their pre-lims, boards, whatever…do good manners then dictate that you say, “We” got booted out of the program?

  49. This is an interesting post. My wife and I are in a university ward and although we’re both students, we would probably say that we are here for her degree. I am about to graduate with a bachelor’s in design, but we moved to the area because she started medical school. In the first couple of months it seemed like we were the odd ones out because most of the others in our ward are here for a husband’s degree. I have since overcome that feeling and now believe that most resentment we feel towards those who we think simply identify themselves by their spouse’s occupation is a result of personal insecurities. I really do believe that my wife’s degree is, in a sense, as much mine as it is her’s, because it will require my support as much as her initiative to succeed. I know I’ve felt that way as I’ve gone through my schooling in regards to her support. It seems to me that when we begin to split roles in the family that do not need splitting we’re in for hurt feelings and twisted views of what is important. The measure of something’s importance could probably be found in the level and way that it affects the family. At the same time, assumptions about how other families should or should not split roles prevent us from building a Zion people.

  50. “One question–if the husband doesn’t pass their pre-lims, boards, whatever…do good manners then dictate that you say, “We” got booted out of the program?”

    So awesome Scott!

    The answer is yes. If you share the credit, you have to share the blame. I know a lot of lawyer’s wives who will have to take have the blame for failing the Bar.

  51. That’s “half” the blame. My wife and I jointly apologize for the error.

  52. Back in the day, when we moved to Boston for my wife’s residency, I began to notice this formulation and found it annoying. I never claimed to have gone to medical school or have been in residency because I hadn’t. Did I do my best to support my wife while she was doing that? Yes. But I didn’t take any classes, pass any tests, and didn’t cut anyone open. If you were on a table cut open I can assure you that I am not the person you want standing by your side. It would be my wife that you’d be hoping to have present, regardless of any support I gave might have rendered.

    While in Boston there were enough women around that were in fact in graduate programs that being less than clear about who is and isn’t in school was (IMHO) impolite in that it often contained an implicit assumption that a woman could not be doing such things.

    Imagine the conversations…

    Sister 1: “Oh, we just moved here for residency!”

    Sister 2: “That’s great, I’m finishing up my surgery residency next year at Mass General, and my husband is doing radiology. What are you specializing in?”

    Sister 1: “Um…”

    Sister 2: (oh shit, don’t I look like a jerk)

    Just say what you do and be proud of it. Being a wife and/or mother is a wonderful thing. Own it. You don’t need a program or profession to be a worthwhile member of a ward, friend, or person.

    And for those that think the misleading “we” is great, would you think the same if the husband were the one saying, “We’re going to law school,” when in fact it is his wife that is going?

  53. I thought this topic was familiar, so I did some searching and found this post from a year ago on Mormon Mentality, which covers much of the same ground. In fact my comment here and my comment there are eerily similar. Perhaps I am just a robot, spitting out predetermined output for a given input. Frightening.

  54. Latter-day Guy says:

    Darn. I thought this post was going to be about some tidbit from the life of Sybil.

    We are disappointed.

  55. Latter-day Guy says:

    …and now we are going to visit a herd of swine and go for a swim…

  56. I can’t say I really care how people introduce themselves and their reason(s) for being where they are. I mean, it’s relatively easy to figure all this stuff out with a few supplementary sentences, isn’t it?

    However, I’ve never said “we” were pregnant, and I’ve never said “we” were in grad school. My husband was in grad school. I was “there” because I was married to him and thought he might get lonely without me.

    I don’t think I’ve even been in a position where it would be simpler to say “we” were someplace for anything. In my experience, people usually ask, “What brings you up here?” In my case I would respond, “My husband’s in grad school” or “my husband got a job here.” Really not that complicated, and not remotely diminishing–seeing how it was, you know, the truth.

    Although I think if I ever get the opportunity to answer this question again, I’ll probably say I’m here for the excellent tap dancing program at the rec center.

  57. Natalie, I appreciated the sentiments in your original post.

    I’d say cut people slack if/when they say this, because I just am not sure most people think that much about it all…they just sort of say what is coming to mind. I imagine that most of the time, it’s really just a simple attempt to be a partnership. But as someone said, it wouldn’t be hard to follow up with a question or two. Seems to me the potential problems could as easily be avoided by not making quick assumptions from one statement.

    I just don’t think we need to make *that* big of a deal out of things like this.

    Although I think if I ever get the opportunity to answer this question again, I’ll probably say I’m here for the excellent tap dancing program at the rec center.

    Not that I would remember by the time the nominations come up next year, but that could be some good Niblet fodder.

  58. Read about half the comments, but it’s late, and I have to go to bed soon. :)

    I definitely like your point here, Natalie B., and I love that our brand of feminism has come to the point where it celebrates the role that a supportive, SAHW does play.

    But the problem I have with this phrase is something that I think z was hinting at.

    When a couple says, “We are here for law school”, how many times have you EVER heard anyone say, “Oh, and which one of you is in law school?” It is an automatic assumption that it is the husband.

    Now, this doesn’t bother me because I don’t think the woman’s contribution is important. I think she’s critical. It bothers me because people pass off these same assumptions to me. And I don’t want to be put into that category that DOES NOT fit me.

    Eg, one week in SS, an older visiting couple sat next to me and asked what had brought my husband and I to the area.
    Me: School
    Them: Oh, is your husband in dental school?
    Me: No, actually, I’m at ___ and he’s at ____.
    Them: What does your husband study?
    Me: He studies art. ….. ….. ….. ….. I study history. [ thanks for asking ]

    It was like my life only mattered in the context of my husband’s accomplishments. I feel like that’s a mindset that is in the same arena as the “we” comments under discussion here. No bueno.

  59. Note that our last move — from Washington DC to Denver, Colorado, back in 2005 — was initiated specifically at my wife’s request and largely to get closer to our (adult) children and grandchildren. My business (I’m self-employed) took a big hit as a result and is still not back to where it was during our six years in DC; frankly, there’s no way to replace the richness of contacts and opportunities I had back in DC. But it was the right thing to do. ..bruce..

  60. aloysiusmiller says:

    I read Karen H.s post just before this. I couldn’t agree more with you.

  61. anon for this one says:

    As someone who failed in graduate school and suffered an extreme career setback (still plaguing me today) because of early marriage difficulties, I very much applaud couples who recognize the mutual contribution required to make it through challenges like law school.

    It’s painful to realize that where some people can say “There’s no way my spouse would’ve been successful in X school if not for me,” my thoughts are more along the lines of “I wouldn’t have failed if I’d been single.” :(

  62. I never thought about this but someone pointed out to me that of all the students in our ward (maybe 16 families or so?) none of the women are seeking advanced degrees. A few work as professionals but none of them are in school. It is common to hear someone say “we are here because my husband is in grad school” but if someone said “we are in grad school” I would assume that the woman is enrolled too and ask what she is studying. I personally say “my husband is in grad school and I work” because I want them to ask what I do for a living so I can brainwash them about the need to reform education but perhaps it is selfish of me because, after all, we are here for grad school.

  63. Since my wife was the family’s only source of income during much of law school, I’d often introduce us like this: “Hi, we’re the jimbobs. I’m in law school, and this is my sugar momma.”

    You’d be amazed at the confused look you can get with that comment.

  64. “And because it’s disappointing, really, to meet an interesting woman and mistakenly think she’ll be your classmate and colleague, only to find out that she’s “in” law school the same way men are “in” Relief Society, which is to say, not.”

    This comment has been bothering me, z. Does the “interesting woman” get booted from your potential circle of friends when it turns out she’s not currently matriculated? I would hope not.

    Our family has moved for my husband’s graduate program, and his post-doc, and now his job. During that time, I have carried and cared for kids, gone through the hundreds of hours required to be a yoga teacher, taught yoga, become a weaver and textile artist, and learned to create really good food. So while each move has been precipitated by his next educational/career step, my work and interests have in no way taken a back seat. And in two years when our last one goes to school, I’ll be back as well doing my graduate work.

  65. Natalie B. says:

    #62 – One trend I have noticed is that although many women are not enrolled in degree programs at the school they live by, significant numbers are doing degrees online at other institutions. The Internet might be helping making continuing education more viable in the face of relocation.

  66. Rachel, your comment at #64 mirrors my thought when I read z’s comment about being disappointed when an “interesting woman” wasn’t going to be a classmate or colleague.

    z, I think your attitude of “disappointment” is exactly why the “we” references bother you. Having a degree, or working toward one, is a very superficial measure of someone’s intelligence or worth. I’ve known many interesting people who weren’t formally educated, and I’ve also known some fairly boring people who are authorized to place a Phd. after their signatures.

  67. To echo, “we are here” and “we are in” are worlds apart. When I was in law school, WE were there for law school. When my cousin was in dental school, he and his spouse (they) were there for dental school (and no other reason). This implies that the reason for the move was to attend school, and not for some other reason. Not I got a job, and there was a good school too, or we wanted to move close to family, and school was here too. Natives could be offended by this, but I don’t think this comments necessarily places the female in a subservient role.

  68. In fairness to z, perhaps she meant that she’s disappointed she won’t have the opportunity to get to know this interesting woman better because she herself will be too busy going to graduate school (without the interesting woman).

  69. I cannot remember a discussion in the Bloggernacle that has had more of the quality of a debate over angels on pinheads. I doubt anyone who gets up to introduce themselves in Sunday School in a new ward is thinking about the deep implications about gender equality that are implicit in every turn of phrase. And I doubt they could remember what they said five minutes later.

    Maybe next time someone introduces themselves to you, you can cut them some slack and not judge them based on ten unpremeditated words. Or think that they are making an implicit judgment on you for your lack of achievement in graduate school or whatever, which they have no inkling about.

    When I went to law school, the explicit motive for our choice of school was because my wife’s mother had cancer and we wanted to move back to Salt Lake to be nearby. When we introduced ourselves we didn’t go into all that. We didn’t say “I’m here for law school and my wife is here for her mom’s cancer.” The process that a couple goes through in planning their lives together, and the compromises they make based on each other’s abilities and interests, are none of our business. Let us not make anyone an offender for a word.

  70. Well, now that you’ve commented, Raymond, at least we have the “pinhead” angle covered.

    What can I say? You made it easy.

  71. Peter LLC says:

    45:When one spouse has a demanding profession like the military, or law, or medicine, it truly is a team effort.

    So if a man has a doubly demanding profession like, say, military doctor, would he qualify for a corresponding increase in, ahem, team support?

  72. Back to #11, I also think that makes a huge difference. A couple months ago I was talking to a woman in my ward who mentioned money is tight because “we are full-time students”. As “students” was plural, I immediately was very impressed that she was in school when she had five kids, so I asked what she was studying. It turned out that HE was a full-time student, and she had dropped out years previously.

  73. “So if a man has a doubly demanding profession like, say, military doctor, would he qualify for a corresponding increase in, ahem, team support?”

    Actually, I believe that both military doctors and JAGs are both stated exceptions to the Manifesto.

  74. Natalie B. says:

    #69 – The reason that this discussion interests me is that when I was in the role of the displaced spouse, I always had to answer the question of what I was doing in city x, and it was difficult to answer. Since going through that experience, I have learned to be more sensitive about asking the people “what they are doing here” and more aware of how it is often a struggle to explain one’s life decisions to people even in casual conversations. We live in a culture where people immediately want to know what you “do,” and so not doing something that is easy to articulate causes awkwardness.

    Also, I think because women feel a lot of pressure to make decisions about or between school and family, they really do listen to these nuances of language as they reflect upon the possible ways they could be living their own lives.

  75. Mrs. Attila says:

    “We” are here to conquer Europe.

  76. Raymond,

    Seriously? Lovely.

  77. My mission president would often introduce himself and his wife and say, “We are the president of the mission” It sounded a little odd, but gave her credit for being a part of the calling.

    Isn’t she set apart to the calling?

    It was my understanding that wives are set apart and go through training for that calling.

    Not the same thing as saying “we are in graduate school.”

  78. “We live in a culture where people immediately want to know what you “do,” and so not doing something that is easy to articulate causes awkwardness.”

    But why is being a stay at home mom and supportive wife not easty to articulate? When people ask me what I “do” I am so happy and proud to say that I stay at home with my kids. It is something that I WORKED hard to accomplished. I consider my degree and part-time work as a civil engineer to be secondary to that and normally I don’t even tell people that I work part-time as an engineer because I am so much more pround of my role as a wife and mother. Call me crazy, but I love being able to say that I support my husband in getting his graudate degree and that I spend each and every day at home with my children.

  79. Stephanie says:

    I was also bothered by the “interesting woman” comment of z (but decided to withhold because I’d already ranted). Since it was brought up . . . it reminds me of an experience I had in our previous ward. In the 9 years since graduating, I have met 1 other woman with an MBA in my own ward. When I found out she was moving in, I was ecstatic. I was hoping to become friends and introduced myself at the first opportunity. As soon as she realized I was a SAHM (she was working), she made it very clear that she was not at all interested in befriending me. She just sort of sniffed at me after that.

    I doubt anyone who gets up to introduce themselves in Sunday School in a new ward is thinking about the deep implications about gender equality that are implicit in every turn of phrase.

    I doubt it, too, but it’s not usually the premeditated things we speak that reveal how we feel and perceive things. It’s the things we say spur-of-the-moment on the spot.

  80. Naismith (77),
    I understand that is not the case.

  81. If my Bishop’s wife ever introduced herself as we are the Bishop, I think I’d change wards quick.

  82. Stephanie says:

    That’s a good point, Steve G.

  83. Well, I’m very sorry that anyone would think my disappointment that an interesting woman wasn’t going to be my classmate is a judgment of anyone’s choices. It’s really not at all. As madhousewife says in #68. I would never write such a woman off my friend list (and if you re-read my comment you’ll see that I said ‘classmate’ and ‘colleague’ and never ‘friend’), but it was disappointing to meet someone at a reception to start law school, really click with her and look forward to having many intellecutally satisfying class discussions, only to find out that she wouldn’t be attending classes and likes to say she’s in law school when really she’s not at all. It’s really misleading and irritating for someone to pull out the “we” in a room where 90% of the people actually are attending law school, nearly half of them women.

    Sorry I didn’t write back earlier, but I was at work. (Even though I am a woman, I really was at work, I don’t mean that my husband was at work and I was home supporting him in some way.)

    Bottom line, what’s wrong with saying what you actually do? It’s not some big secret, is it? Why do we have to play “guess the occupation” just because you relocated for your spouse’s career needs? It’s perfectly fine to be looking for a job, or caring for children, or whatever. Why hush it up?

  84. z, psssst. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but most Mormons are actually, despite what they may say, working directly or indirectly for the CIA. Shhhhh. Keep it on the DL.

  85. Natalie B. says:

    #78 – A lot of displaced wives are not yet mothers. In fact, I don’t think any of this year’s “law school wives” in my ward are.

  86. “Naismith (77),
    I understand that is not the case.”

    I didn’t mean to imply that a mission president’s wife is a co-president. She is not called to be a mission president, of course. But she is (at least the folks I’ve known, this may have changed) set apart to be a missionary and is required to do training.

    “If my Bishop’s wife ever introduced herself as we are the Bishop, I think I’d change wards quick.”

    In most cases, that would be true, of course:) But my daughter serves in branch leadership in one of the outlying MTCs. Her husband was called to the presidency per se, and she was called to work in the branch, teaching RS of course, but working with both male and female missionaries. The difference being that she was actually called to do that job.

  87. My ward is currently receiving an influx of students, and just this Sunday I was struck yet again by how many women introduced themselves in Relief Society by saying, “We’re here for an MBA” or “We’re here for law school.”

    It’s been fascinating to read all the comments, and having read them all I still don’t know what I think about this mode of introduction and expression. I put my husband through school for seven years. I never said, “We’re here for graduate school,” much less “We’re in graduate school,” probably because I didn’t feel at all as if _I_ were in graduate school–and for most of that time I desperately wanted to be. Of course it was a joint effort, but he was getting the knowledge, having the experiences, earning the credentials. (I too found being a trailing spouse very hard.)

    I became more sympathetic to the expression when I had my daughter. Having firsthand experience of how much it takes to carry and bear and care for a child, I began to need my husband’s help as I never had before and to appreciate the joint nature of the effort required to raise a child, or to go to school. For the first time the standard division of labor, in which he goes to school and/or works while she raises the kids, really made sense to me, and I started to see why women would say “We’re in law school” and men would say “We’re pregnant.”

    Still, I would find it odd if my husband said, “We’re pregnant.” (Are “we” going to get an epidural?) For some reason I’d find it less odd if he said, “We’re expecting,” I guess because we both together are expecting, but I’m the one who’s pregnant.

  88. Another thought: I’m wondering about the difference in meaning if the expression is reversed. That is, if a married woman says, “We are going to law school,” I’m more likely to assume that her husband is in school and she isn’t. If a married man says, “We are going to law school,” I would understand that to mean that they’re both in law school.

  89. Natalie, Great post. In a very strict sense based on language usage I was the one in graduate school. But that is only the most superficial of uses which coldly and technically captures one aspect of reality, one based on legal and contractual obligations of what it means to be ‘in’ graduate school. If viewed as a family ecosystem we were about the same task, structuring a single niche, my wife and I. Without her, my graduate school would have been impossible. Only her support in the family economy made it even possible. “We” were in graduate school was the only way to describe the lived reality of what we went through. Forget the technical definition, I know a ‘we’ when I see one.

  90. I think the “we’re in law school” very odd.
    However, “we’re pregnant” seems completely normal. I did find myself saying “we’re pregnant” for #4 (without realizing I had said it) and having someone balk at it. But to me, I guess “we’re pregnant” has just come to mean that we are going to have a baby. Saying “we are expecting” is awfully old-fashioned.

  91. From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:

    “Both husband and wife are set apart as missionaries by the laying on of hands by an assigned General Authority, often a member of the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and receive blessings and counsel appropriate to their assignment.”

    However the man is set apart as the prez while the wife is set apart to be a companion and helpmate or something along those lines to her husband.

  92. Re: #69 Raymond – It’s JUST a discussion w/ interesting opinions. No one was planning a revolt or anything – you should lighten up a bit. Does EVERYTHING have to be ‘religious big picture’ ? Sheesh.
    Anyway, my ward is almost ALL grad/med/law students @ 1 of 3 major universities w/in 20 minutes. Seems like everyone introduces themselves in a way that implies that both in the couple are in school. Sometimes it IS actually true that both are in school, but when they are not – I am w/ Z. Own up to your decisions and status and don’t be ashamed of what and who you are and why you were dragged here ! Also, it is quite aggravating for some of these same people who we know will only be here for a set amount of time to continually talk of how different (ALWAYS better) their home state is. As a native, I tend to assume after hearing this that we probably won’t be best friends. I don’t say those things when I travel ! They should remember that they came to us, not the reverse !

  93. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’d prefer to hear, at first meeting, what kind of ice cream people like to what they do for a living. It’s of roughly the same importance. And rarely rarely can you say “we” prefer cookie dough ice cream. Usually she prefers some unmanly thing, like coffee flavor.

    If you are consecrating your career, then that’s something. Otherwise, in my view, it’s just one way in a thousand of putting pottage on the table. There’s a real picture. All the young LDS inviting one another over to see the shiny pottage. My career allows us to by this lustrous new golden calf. Oh, my!

    Not that wealth can’t be a great blessing – almost as great as finding essential work that is fit to our talents. Being surrounded by beautiful things can be wonderful. (And I should know because I’ve seen it, if not often.) But if it becomes a peg to hang your ego on, I think you’ve got big troubles.

    Of course, in this last couple years, I’ve been stripped of all my ego trappings. I’m throwing freight at the Piggly Wiggly. (I only wish they’d pay me six figures to do it, I’d never quit.) So maybe this is just bitterness. But I don’t think so. After all the heartache, it’s like walking out into a new world, again. I recommend it to most people. We just came out of a conference where Elder Perry (of all people) quoted Walden Pond at length. If that isn’t a call to get a clue. Sooner or later, Babylon goes away (Rev 18). ~

  94. Thomas Parkin says:

    Ego: see this is what all this is about. Our ego cares what some other person is going to say about our career choices. What someone might whisper, or even think to themselves, about our talents and competence.

    There is something I do whenever I know that I will need the Spirit, instead of my own zippy brain. I plead with the Lord to take my ego out of the equation. When that ego less condition is achieved, then the revelation can flow because I’m no longer standing in my own way. This church where everyone is fretting about how they appear in one another’s eyes, and mostly in the most crass worldly terms, is, most importantly, a church where no revelation can occur.

    Alma 4.

    “8 For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
    9 And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envying, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.
    10 And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.”

    ~

  95. Eric Russell says:

    In Elder’s Quorum, guys often just introduce themselves by announcing their favored sports team. They rarely say “we.” And even when they do, everyone understands they’re really just speaking for themselves anyway, so it’s never been a cause for confusion.

  96. 88.

    Nicely put. If “we’re in grad school” is truly an indication of a unity in a marriage, then the husbands should say it with the same frequency as the wives. If not, then there’s some other explanation. (Which is not to devalue the contribution of a spouse not in school, just to say that there’s something else motivating the pronoun usage.)

    The new school year is just around the corner, are there any husband and wife teams in college towns willing to do a tally in RS and EQ for how many people say “we” vs. “I”?

  97. I am not in a university ward, per se, but the three wards in our community here in Illinois exist, to a large extent, because of the University that brings folks from all over. And in the past year that my wife and I have been married, I can’t recall anyone actually saying “We are here for law school.” What I have heard is “We just moved here so that Steve could go to law school.” Or variations of that. I’ll have to listen more closely now.

    Incidentally, I have noticed that it is almost always the wife who does the introduction.

    But I find the entire argument that it is wrong to claim that “we” are here for something, or that “we” are going to something amusing. I think it is akin to someone giving my wife grief for wearing my t-shirts that proclaim the individual worked as a volunteer staff member at a leadership camp. She didn’t, but since we’re married, she wears my clothes. What’s mine is hers and what’s hers is hers. Or something like that. ;)

  98. Peter LLC says:

    93: I’d prefer to hear, at first meeting, what kind of ice cream people like to what they do for a living. It’s of roughly the same importance.

    Preach on, brother. I usually share my favorite color.

  99. Peter LLC,

    I challenge you to a Ice Cream taste-off. Blue Bell vs pick your brand

  100. Katya,

    To add to your point, how many people other than Mormons have you ever heard (ab)use “we” in such a way?

    In my experience, when a non-Mormon woman says, “We are in law school,” she means exactly that.

    So is this a unique Mormon way of speaking? If so, why is that?

  101. In my experience, it’s usually the husband who says “we” and he’s doing it to give the wife credit for her contribution to his schooling, as he should. Mormons are, perhaps, more conscious of doing that or are more likely to be in a position of having one spouse in school while the other works or takes care of children. They are also more likely to be introducing themselves in a group, since they are going to be new in a ward. Other than that, I don’t think this is a uniquely Mormon thang.

  102. MCQ,

    I’ve never heard a man say it, but I’ve heard LDS women say it frequently enough to have been aware of it for some time.

    Actually I should be more accurate. I’ve heard men say, “We are in law school,” and they mean exactly that.

  103. But what’s weird about it is that it seems to be just for school. Does anyone say “we’re practicing medicine”? Or “we’re a librarian” or any other occupations? The same argument could be made, that someone couldn’t possibly succeed professionally without a supportive spouse, but people mostly use this weird locution for graduate school.

  104. Stephanie says:

    103 – Possibly because graduate school is a temporary thing.

  105. I appreciate this. My family moved near Boston for my husband to attend BU dental. I truly feel this is a team effort and “we” are attending dental school. The only hard thing about that phrase is when my cousin says “we” are in law school. BOTH her and her husband are law students. What do you do with that?

  106. Just today I saw a question on a forum posted by a man who said:

    “We will be breast feeding our baby as much a possible.”

    That was definitely a “we” you don’t hear that often.

  107. Dear Dr. Deidre,

    I have a bridge that is bothering me. What should I do? Would you be able to replace it?

  108. Now you’re sorta just being a jerk, arj.

  109. But nobody says that even for jobs that are temporary. Nobody would say “we’re data-entry temps” when really only the husband is, right?

  110. I guess the reason I always think it sounds pathetic is it seems like an attempt to puff up the wife’s credentials outside the home. Nobody says “we’re stay-at-home parents” when the husband is actually a full-time cardiologist, even if the family really does consider parenting to be the Most Important Family Undertaking. Why isn’t being a dental student’s supportive wife enough?

  111. And the converse, how would stay-at-home parents feel if parents who did not stay at home purported to, or at least glossed over the difference between really staying home, and having a spouse who does? Wouldn’t that be a little objectionable, given how great the difference in day-to-day life and in religious compliance, if you go for that sort of thing?

  112. >100.

    Hard to say. Knowing that a phenomenon exists doesn’t tell us why it exists and, in this case, we don’t have anything besides anecdotal evidence to work with. (Seriously, is anyone willing to collect data on this?)

  113. I truly feel this is a team effort and “we” are attending dental school.

    Okay, this is really over the top…I can certainly see saying that you are here “for” graduate school, and maybe even “in” dental school (because it is a process). No way is a spouse “attending” dental school.

  114. Oh, and I should perhaps add that I was a supportive spouse of a grad student. We married at the start of his master’s and had three children by the end of the doctorate.

    One of the hardest things ever was that I was allowed to type his answers to his written candidacy exam, in an era before personal computers. It was gut-wrenching because he got one question wrong, and I knew the right answer (I’d taken evolutionary genetics as an undergrad and he had not).

    But I was not the one enrolled, so I could not answer for him.

  115. “Hard to say. Knowing that a phenomenon exists doesn’t tell us why it exists…”

    I don’t know why it got started, but I was shocked when a recent BYU devotional speaker said this, calling his degree “our doctorate” and explaining about the partnership thing.

    So with that kind of role-modeling from the highest pulpits, it might seem normal.

    I hadn’t heard it from anyone under 60, until reading about it here. I have an older female relative who does talk about, “When we were in grad school.”

  116. I I didn’t say you had to feel the same way I did. I just said I appreciate the sentiment of the whole “we” thing. My husband said to me the other night that he felt I did a lot so that he could be a good student. Could the whole “we” statement actually mean that I am a dental students supportive wife? This is enough for me. Sounds like a problem of semantics.

  117. MCQ,

    You are right, I was being a jerk. I should included a smiley to protect myself from you. :)

    Deidre,

    Amusingly enough this seems to boil down to what one’s definition of “is” is. In this case more specifically, what one’s definition of “we are” is.

    I happen to think that your definition is inaccurate, and that it could signal any number of unfortunate things that have already been covered.

    None of which means that I think that you are a bad person. On the contrary, I am the one who has gone out and demonstrated that I am the bad person. In any case, I apologize for any offense I’ve caused, for whatever that’s worth coming from me.

    Please note that I also tend to fly off the handle when I encounter an in improper usage (and 99% of the time it is improper) of “begs the question.” So consider yourself warned.

  118. One of the hardest things ever was that I was allowed to type his answers to his written candidacy exam, in an era before personal computers. It was gut-wrenching because he got one question wrong, and I knew the right answer (I’d taken evolutionary genetics as an undergrad and he had not).

    But I was not the one enrolled, so I could not answer for him.

    That is a great story. I doubt that I would have the combined integrity and lack of ego needed to do such a thing.

  119. arj, pardon my curiosity, but your comment begs the question: Why are you like that? Were you abused as a child by an overly sensitive grammatics instructor?

  120. MCQ,

    No, it does not.

  121. “Nobody says ‘we’re stay-at-home parents’ when the husband is actually a full-time cardiologist…”

    Sure, but I often say “we are raising two boys” even though my wife does the lion-share of the work in that regard. Like the dental students’ wives, I’m looking to ride on my wife’s parenting coattails. Lately, though, she keeps saying, “I’m a SHAM raising two boys, and my husband just sits on his ass all day.” Which is hard to hear, even if true.

  122. Wouldn’t it be you that’s a SHAM, then?

    Seriously, what you describe is a far cry from saying “we’re stay-at-home parents.” It’s not a misrepresentation of your occupation and your day-to-day activities the way “we’re in grad school” is.

    Now I’m wondering what exactly is this super-important spousal support without which people could never have completed graduate school. If you have kids at home, it’s obvious– the spouse does the majority of the parenting and household management. But if you don’t have kids, what is it? Single people get through grad school just fine all the time, so I’m at a loss to explain what could be such a significant contribution so as to be fairly described as being “in” graduate school. Wives aren’t expected to type papers anymore, so what is it?

    It’s interesting how this corresponds to “all women are mothers” and “women hold the priesthood through their husbands”– all very Mormon in culture, and all designed to make women feel better by allowing them to claim to do or be things they aren’t literally doing or being.

  123. Left Field says:

    As I said before, “we’re here for x school” seems pretty straightforward, isn’t inaccurate, and doesn’t imply that both spouses are actually enrolled.

    On the other hand, “we’re in grad school” might be misleading to some, but it does express an idea in a way that is not in my experience restricted to Mormons. It sounds to me like a shorthand for “we’re experiencing the graduate student lifestyle” or “we’re going through the graduate student phase of our lives.” I think that’s what SteveP was getting at back up in 89. I don’t know that I’ve heard the exact expression “we’re in grad school” much, particularly as an introduction, but I have known a lot of LDS and non-LDS couples who define their shared lifestyle in terms of graduate school. That’s what the expression brings to my mind.

    For the same reasons, I’d think you might hear “we’re an army family” or “we’re in the military” even if it’s not literally true as stated. In context everyone understands that you can be “in the military” in the sense of being actually enlisted, or “in the military” in the sense of being part of military life and culture.

    I do agree that claims that one can’t get through graduate or professional school without a spouse are overblown. I got all the way through my graduate education without being married, and did just fine. However, if you *are* married, I would think that the support of a spouse would be extremely valuable and important.

  124. My husband is long past law school, but when I mention “the law school years” I am not usually refering to the actual material he studied, nor am I trying to hint that any specific status is due either of us. I am usually alluding to a time in MY life and our family’s life, in which nearly everything revolved around or was determined by OUR decision for him to attend law school. Those three years of our lives were characterized by isolation from family, the adventure of living in an unfamiliar area with a unique church culture, having almost no money, the taking on of worrisome financial burdens, monontonous jobs, and precious little time together. It was a time of stress and excitement and mind-opening experiences that we both enjoyed and struggled through together. Oh yes, and he also spent many hours a day preparing to be a lawyer, while I cared for small children and read a lot.

    Sometimes I use shorthand to refer to that period of my life, but if my shorthand is misunderstood a quick clarifying question will reveal that I am not implying that I share a degree by osmosis. Nor am I trying to diminish some of the glory and admiration rightfully due to women like Z by indicating that what I did was essentially equivalent. Don’t worry Z, your status as ‘more accomplished than me’ is assured and conceded. If you want a legal question answered, you should ask my husband. But if someone wants to know me, they should understand that much of the adult that I am was formed from my experiences getting through those years of his attending law school. I will claim my own experiences, and phrasing “the years I supported my husband in law school” is too wordy, and conjures images of an adoring Nancy Reagan smiling at her hubby; it seems inadequate to express the impact that that law school (fine, HIS law school) had on my life.

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned here is, if it is a uniquely Mormon thing to say “we are here for law school” when only the husband is attending school, it is also uniquely Mormon to be married at all during grad school. Most women who are married to lawyers were not married during law school. They didn’t “get through” those years together the way we did. In contrast, we were married as undergrads, we decided together that he would attend law school, and where he would attend, and then I lived with him through those years. WE actually did have a ‘law school experience’ together that was a team-effort in ways that few people can claim.

  125. Amen, Kristy.

  126. Kristy and E:
    I can’t speak for z, but for me–a single, female law student–the issue is not about wanting to be seen as “more accomplished” than anyone else, but about wanting to be acknowledged at all. In my experience, there is an unfortunate tendency in the church for singles to be treated as younger and less mature than married members simply because of their marital status. You’re already getting a tremendous amount of (well-deserved!) credit as a wife and mother. I understand that there are a multitude of skills and experiences you have in those areas that I can’t possibly develop until I have my own family someday. I also know from watching my married law school friends that a lot goes into being a supportive spouse of a law student, and I think we should acknowledge that. But as much as I would love to be in your shoes, I’m not right now. So please don’t begrudge me claiming my tiny sphere of accomplishment!

    I understand that it’s natural to use “law school” as a shorthand for a significant family and personal experience. But please remember that my law school experience is everything you listed–the isolation, the adventure, the unfamiliar culture, little money–PLUS the reading, the writing, the moot court, the socratic method, the exams. And while I have wonderful friends, I’m ultimately getting through this experience without the help of a supportive partner like yourself. Your experience and mine are apples and oranges–can’t we describe them that way? I don’t see either one as better or worse; I’d just like to be acknowledged honestly for my accomplishments while honoring you accurately for yours.

    For what it’s worth, I do see a distinction between “here for law school” (which I see as accurate; the school is why the family moved to the area) and “going to law school” (which is inaccurate for all the reasons expressed by other commenters). But it’s not about status, it’s about honesty and honoring the valuable things we are all pursuing, spouses and students alike.

  127. I’m sure you’re very accomplished, Kristy, and you supported him very much and made lots of important sacrifices. I’ve never tried to deny that, I’ve only said that it isn’t being “in” law school. Obviously law school has an impact on a spouse’s life. I just think the way some women describe it is misleading.

    I will note for the record that when I was in (really in, me, even though I am a woman!) law school, lots of non-Mormons were married, many to other law students.

  128. Melanie2, what makes you think I am a SAHM or supported a spouse through graduate or professional school? I am also baffled that you would interpret anything I have written as failing to honor single women who are students. Or even as adressing single women who are students in any way. I have also not compared my life experiences to yours. I was merely giving Kristy an amen, because I think she has eloquently captured her experience, which has nothing to do with you.

  129. Stephanie says:

    I think the difference between graduate school and a normal occupational experience is that when a family has a parent in grad school, the other parent has to shoulder a lot of the student parent’s responsibility. So, it’s not just that a husband is in school and a wife is taking care of the kids – the husband is in school, and the wife is playing mom AND dad for those few years. In business school, they called them “MBA widows”. I think that might be why husbands go the extra mile to give their wives credit by saying “we”. Not that they couldn’t accomplish school themselves, but their families couldn’t survive and thrive during that time without the extra efforts of their wives.

  130. E,
    Sorry, my mistake. How embarrassing–I read this post and most of the comments yesterday, and didn’t realize this evening that your #125 was not your only comment on this thread. I had interpreted your amen as “truly” or “I agree,” and assumed that meant you were in a similar position to Kristy. My apologies; there was no offense intended.

    FWIW, Kristy never said she was a SAHM, and my response didn’t assume that either of you was, even before I re-read your earlier comments. And no, I don’t interpret your comments as failing to honor single students. Sorry about the confusion.

  131. Thanks E, for your kind words.

    Melanie2, I also see a difference between “here for law school” and “going to law school”. And I think that being single in law school is at least as challenging as being married in law school. I also don’t begrudge anyone their recognition for the accomplishment of getting through grad school of any type. With no sarcasm at all, I respect that greatly, and I do recognize that when you finish law school, while we will have in common an understanding of many of the stresses and worries that accompany such schooling, you will have actually learned about the law, and will have a degree that is all yours to use for the rest of your life, an accomplishment that I simply don’t have. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that significant difference.

    But I don’t agree with Z that by even saying “we are here for law school”, a wife is being misleading, or trying to puff up her credentials. Nor do I think that this expression somehow diminishes the accomplishment of women who are in grad school themselves, merely because it is semantically similar to how a woman who was married and attending law school herself might express her circumstances. We are talking about the very begining of an initial introduction; ten seconds later and everyone will be clear about who precisely is attending school, and proper acknowledgements can be made.

    Z, your experience of knowing many non-Mormon students who were married during law school was certainly different than the situation at my husband’s school. I doubt more than 1% of the students were married, and in the 12 years since then, I have found that very few of his colleagues were married in law school. I have a sister and a brother who have lived in married student housing at grad schools outside of Utah, and both found their housing units to have almost absurd numbers of LDS couples. It’s not unreasonable to think that LDS couples are far more likely than the general population to have worked together as a married couple to assist one spouse in getting through grad school, and that is reflected in the unusual phrasing, “we are here for grad school”.

  132. Dan Richards says:

    Like Jordan, I love this time of year in Ann Arbor, and I have no qualms with people saying “we’re here for law school.” After all, there is no “I” in marria…, wait, yes there is.

  133. Dan,

    My reading of the comments is that most commenters have no problem with “we’re here for” it is “we’re in” that is irksome to some. I personally think “we’re here for” just dandy.

  134. I haven’t read all the posts, but there is NO way my husband would have successfully completed ROTC, his bachelors degree, and now is a First Lieutenant in the US Army. NONE. Without my support, proofreading, bibliography correcting, typing, being a research assistant, cook, breadwinner (I supported him financially) he would not have stayed with the program.

    Just as there is no way I could have gone through bedrest, a pregnancy from hell, and a 7 week NICU stay with our baby by myself. The poor man cleaned up so much vomit. From our bed. From floors. From the cars. From clogged sinks.

    Oh, BTW, this pregnancy and the ROTC hell went on at the same time. Except for the miracle which is our daughter, that was an Annus horribilis. We were pregnant and we were both in ROTC. There was a time, thankfully past, where I could cite Army regulations by chapter and verse.

    It was us working together which gave us a common goal. I’ll be honest, while a horrible time, those years were some when we were so close.

  135. I wonder, then, how lots of single people manage to have those same accomplishments.

  136. As a married Mormon woman in law school, I feel confident I have something to add to this discussion.

    I don’t ever say “we” are in law school.

    I hope that everyone reading this will read “The Solitude of Self,” the last speech made by Elizabeth Cady Stanton to NAWSA. She elegantly addresses “the birthright to self-sovereignty” of each individual and discusses that there are many things that, in the end, we must face, earn, enjoy alone.

    “Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?”

  137. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was an interesting person whom I admire, but I don’t know what the purpose of marriage is if you share her perspective without at least qualifying it.

  138. Huh,

    “We” just comes naturally. “We” went to grad school. “We” took a job. “We” moved to Omaha. Whatever. Never thought too much of it. I’m grateful for that. I think I’ll stick with it. Just feels right.

  139. Hm, my link went all wacky on me…but, I think that her ideas and marriage are not incompatible at all. After all, she was married and took primary responsibility for raising their seven children.

    She’s just sayin’ that you are yourself. You experience things from a perspective that no one can share. You makes decisions and accomplish things that are entirely your own.

    On a totally different note…
    I think there is a general problem in corporate-run America that we associate/equate who we are with what we do as an occupation/the degrees & titles we posess. I can see the conundrum it poses for mothers who are not part of gaining an advanced degree and thus feel the loss connection to the title they are sacrificing for their spouse to gain.

    I think we all need to take a hard look at the root of this insecurity. We must distinguish in our lives if we are proud of our craft and contribution to society or are we proud of the title we hold or how others view us?

    If motherhood is so revered in Mormon society (truly above professional achievements), should it not be held is such esteem that it is mentioned first and foremost? Not tacked on as an aside.

    We are here to parent our children, and I happen to be going to law school.

  140. The September issue of the Ensign has a Q&A section on marriage advice. One of the answers reminded me of this thread:

    The best marriage advice I ever received was from my dad, Richard Hopkins, who told me that an accomplishment for one person in a marriage is a victory for both. My husband, Mark, and I have made this one of the rules we live by.

    For example, if one spouse graduates from college, it brings honor to the family and should be celebrated as a joint accomplishment. (After all, for one spouse to graduate, the other had to support the effort by sacrificing time and perhaps by contributing financially or helping more than usual with childcare.) And now the whole family is better off because of it.

    The same concept applies to other accomplishments—serving well at Church, doing well at music or sports or other talents, getting a promotion at work, and so forth.

    This advice has worked so well in our 25 years of marriage that we decided to apply it to our six children as well. The accomplishment of any child is a victory for the whole family. Other children should not feel pressured to accomplish something similar, nor should they resent the success of their sibling; instead, we celebrate what one has done to bring honor to everyone.

  141. Jim Donaldson says:

    “The same concept applies to other accomplishments—serving well at Church, doing well at music or sports or other talents, getting a promotion at work, and so forth.”

    That would explain, then, the young wife of our newest bishopric counselor who was asked to bear her testimony, exclaiming how pleased she was because ‘we have been called to the bishopic.’

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